Climate policy: Trump should talk to Pope Francis

Here in my home state of Maryland, there is great news for the environment: our legislature just passed a ban on fracking. And it even has the support of Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican.

Still, this is just a bit of a salve in light of the anti-environmental actions that President Donald Trump is taking at the national level today. Trump is slated to sign executive actions designed to wipe out, yes — wipe out — the environmental legacy of former President Barack Obama.

Trump’s new decree would eliminate regulations requiring states to slash carbon emissions from power plants — a critical part of the U.S. commitment to meet the requirements of the global climate change accord reached in Paris in 2015. The U.S. is a party to that accord, but our continued participation in it is reportedly still being debated within the Trump administration.

Other Trump actions have equally serious consequences for the environment. In the name of so-called “energy independence,” the Trump order will permit coal leasing on federal lands, remove rules to cut methane emissions in oil and gas production, and generally tamper down the weight of climate change and carbon emissions when making decisions about permits for infrastructure. The Trump administration calls this an "Energy Independence" order. It is actually a “dirty energy” order that will worsen pollution and take us back to days of dirtier air and water.

Moreover, the Trump administration is using the welfare of workers to justify these policy changes. "The previous administration devalued workers with their policies," a senior White House official told reporters. “We can protect the environment while providing people with work."

Yes, but that work does not have to be coal mining or building oil pipelines. The administration could entice new industries (solar panel and/or windmill manufacturing come to mind) to places like Virginia and West Virginia. It may take time, but it’s possible.

Yet Trump is barging ahead with destructive policies.

In my dream world, I know that Trump could learn a lot by consulting with Pope Francis, who wrote the landmark encyclical, Laudato Si’, on the importance of preserving our natural environment.

Francis, like Trump, is not a climate scientist, but he knew enough to consult the best authorities on climate before he penned his encyclical. Trump, on the other hand, has reportedly consulted fairly exclusively with climate change skeptics. Both he and his new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, have themselves questioned the validity of climate science.

It’s highly doubtful that Trump knows anything about Laudato Si’, or  Francis for that matter. But Trump could learn a lot from the encyclical and certainly from the pope. Maybe, just maybe, they will meet and talk climate issues, some day.

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